Diagnosis Depression: What posted photo on Instagram reveal about the psyche
According to health experts, depression can be treated well as long as it is recognized early. However, the mental illness is often diagnosed late. Researchers are now reporting on a computer program that can help identify the disease - based on the photos posted on Instagram.
More and more people suffer from depression
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that the number of people with depression has increased again worldwide. In the EU too, more and more people suffer from mental illness. Depression can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms: lack of drive, lack of motivation, sadness, little zest for life. However, the disease can also be recognized by photos that are published on the Internet.
Algorithm for the detection of depressive illnesses
Can photos show a computer program if we are depressed? Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Vermont have developed an algorithm that can detect existing depression by evaluating photos on Instagram.
The experts published the results of their research in the Cornell University Library last year.
After experts assessed the quality of the study, the results have now been officially published in the specialist magazine "EPJ Data Science".
Current methods of diagnosis are lengthy and expensive
Current methods of diagnosing depression are usually lengthy and expensive. According to an older investigation that appeared in the specialist journal "The Lancet", general practitioners only make the correct diagnosis in around every second case.
However, the new algorithm made it possible to detect depression with a probability of 70 percent.
To get these results, almost 44,000 photos of 166 Instagram users were analyzed using color, metadata and face recognition algorithms.
Instead of colored black and white shots
The scientists found that the photos of the 71 subjects who had already been diagnosed with depression by a doctor showed special properties compared to those of users without a diagnosis.
Depressed people posted dark, gray, blue or black and white photos more often. In addition, people with a penchant for depressive behavior would post pictures more often than people with no mental health problems.
They also often post photos on which faces are depicted, but there are fewer people on the photos than healthy people. This may have to do with the fact that depressed people surround themselves with fewer people.
The analyzes also showed that depressed people tend to use fewer colors. They also used filters less often - and if they did, they used a filter that converted a colorful into a black and white image (inkwell filter).
"In other words, people who suffer from depression prefer a filter that literally took all the color out of the pictures they wanted to share," the scientists write.
The healthy control group, on the other hand, used the image-brightening Valencia filter most frequently.
Computer program detects depression by 70 percent
The study authors hope that their findings will result in a new screening option for mental illnesses.
The computer program, which can detect 70 percent of depression, is more accurate than the diagnosis of general practitioners, who only recognize the disease in 42 percent of the cases.
"This suggests a new method for early screening for depression and other emerging mental illnesses," said Chris Danforth, professor at the University of Vermont, who conducted the new study with Andrew Reece from Harvard University.
"This algorithm can sometimes detect depression before a clinical diagnosis is made," the expert said in a statement.
"That could help you go to a doctor earlier," Danforth said.
Better treatment options with early diagnosis
However, the scientists point out that the new software cannot replace a medical diagnosis or going to a doctor. "This examination is not a diagnostic test," said the experts.
"But our study shows that this could be a new and inexpensive way to help people," said Danforth.
Early detection of depression enables rapid treatment. Affected people can often be treated effectively with simple but functional therapies.
In addition to psychotherapy and medication, other methods of treating depression can also be used.
Yoga training works very well for mental illnesses. And in general it can be said that sport also helps against depression. This has already been clearly demonstrated in previous studies. (ad)